Monthly Archives: September 2013

Banned Books Week

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banned books

Even though the week is ending, I wanted to make sure I did a post on Banned Books Week. I think you’d be surprised at some of the books that make the lists around the country.

Some of the most challenged books of this past year?

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison  Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

 

Looking for Alaska is one of my all time favorite books and I think a great read for teens as well as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian which I think is an especially important read with the amount of bullying that is going on these days. Also typically showing up on banned book lists are the Harry Potter books, To Kill a Mockingbird  and Lord of the Flies. All books I grew up on (okay…so I was an adult when Potter stuff came out, but still…).

Great literature shouldn’t be kept from enthusiastic readers.  If you feel your child is not mature enough for the content, then hold off on letting them read it, but don’t go about trying to get it banned.  I feel strongly that parents should read what they’re kids are reading (or want to read) and make the decision on whether or not it’s appropriate for their own children, but what gives anyone the right to say what is or isn’t good for someone else’s child?  I was reading Gone with the Wind  and Stephan King books by the time I was in 6th grade (I even dressed as Mammy for Halloween that year!).

Some kids can handle the topics and they *are* important topics for young adults.  If you think, by keeping your kid from reading certain books that you’re sheltering them from bad things in the world, I think you’ll be sad to find out they already know about such things.

Encourage your kids to read and if there are difficult topics, open a discussion with them and remind them that while many of the situations can be happening to people all over the world, it is still a work of fiction. Remind them that things work out the way they do because the author makes it so.

Don’t keep them from amazing, touching, powerful stories because you think they don’t know about sex or violence or other hurtful things going on in the world. Better they learn it through a world of fiction than real life experiences.  Some of these stories could help them learn warning signs and to not be so naive when they get into the real world. Banning them would be doing a disservice to many.

What are your thoughts on banning books? Does it serve a purpose or should parents be more involved in what their kids read and ask them to hold off on certain books until they’re older?

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Teaser Tuesday – Driven Chap. 2

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While the writing has been slow going as of late, I’m hoping by posting teasers it intrigues people to want more, therefore pushing me to write faster! Haha. Remember, this is all pre-editing.  Enjoy!

Chapter One can be found: here

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Chapter Two

 

The interior of the house was like a well-organized yard sale. Knick-knacks lined shelves and windowsills.  They were free of dust and many had small white tags hanging from them that blew in the breeze Olivia made as she headed towards the bathroom that had been pointed out to her.  She stopped to admire a porcelain seahorse.  It was washed in pale colors, the edges gilded in shiny gold. It seemed incredibly detailed and delicate, as if it would crumble to pieces if it were touched.

“Pretty isn’t it?” Pastel’s voice came from behind her.  Olivia, who had been lost in her own world, spun and nearly knocked it off the shelf.  Wrinkled hands reached up to rescue the delicate creature.

“S-sorry!” Olivia stuttered, her face flaming.

“No bother dear, accidents happen.  Would you like me to put your name on it? I’m sure Tude wouldn’t mind.”

Olivia’s brow furrowed. “I’m not sure what you mean,” she admitted.

The older woman pointed to a nearby figure of a pig in a bonnet carrying a basket of flowers.  One of the small white tags was hanging from its empty hand.  Upon closer inspection, Olivia saw the name Mary printed in a tiny neat scrawl on the tag.

“When people like something in our home, we mark it for them so when we move on, they can have it,” the woman explained.

“Move…on?”  The angry butterflies came to life in Olivia’s stomach as she started to get the idea.

“Yes! When we move on from this world. We wouldn’t want to see anyone fight over our things so we are labeling them now to keep that from happening.”

Olivia felt herself start to sway at the woman’s casual talk of her own death. She mumbled an apology and dashed into the bathroom, a hand over her mouth.  There was nothing in her stomach to come up, but she dry heaved for a few moments while her pulse raced. The topic of death was never an easy one for her, but it had gotten worse over the years.  She hoped her actions didn’t insult the nice old lady.

Once her breathing was back to normal, she pushed a sweaty strand of auburn hair off her brow. Pumping some of the potent flower smelling soap into her hands, she scrubbed at her face with vigor, as if the strong scent could wash away more than just the dirt. After splashing cold water on her face, she looked up and recoiled at the sight of her clean pink skin.  It had been a while since she had seen herself dirt-free. Her eyes still looked old, but without smudges and dirt settled into tired creases, she looked more her age of 18.

She finger combed through her tangled locks and pulled the strands into a quick messy braid. Better than nothing.  There wasn’t much she could do about the state of her clothes, but at least she looked presentable from the neck up. Taking one last look in the mirror, Olivia tucked a wayward piece of hair behind her ear before leaving the small room to find both women waiting for her.

“Everything alright, dear?” Pastel asked.

Olivia looked at both women, her eyes wide. “Fine…?”

“Took you long enough. Let’s eat,” Tude said turning away before Olivia could respond.

“Don’t mind her. She gets cranky when she’s hungry,” the twin said, tucking her hand under Olivia’s arm.  They followed the other woman to a dining room where a long table was elaborately set.

A chandelier hung from the ceiling, its drops of glass spitting out pinpoints of light throughout the room. The walls were covered in a combination of dark wood paneling and a cabbage rose wallpaper.  The table was far too big for just the three of them, but each place was set as if its occupant were royalty: silver utensils, fine china and crystal goblets.

Olivia felt as if she had stepped into a different dimension. Who were these crazy old ladies?

Large silver platters sat on the table, gleaming covers hiding their contents. A cut glass pitcher filled with water and slices of lemons, limes and oranges sat just beyond the food, sweating slightly.

When Tude lifted the lid off of one of the platters, Olivia nearly swooned as the smell of roast chicken drifted her way.  Her stomach growled loudly.  She slapped her hands to her navel as if to stop the sound from traveling, but the wide-eyed looks of the old biddies told her she wasn’t hiding anything.  Olivia just hoped she wasn’t drooling like a teething babe.

“Sit already, would you?” Tude grumbled, laying the cover on the sideboard behind her.

Olivia pulled out the heavy chair and sank into it, unable to take her eyes from the veritable feast before her. She couldn’t remember the last time she had more than a cup of soup or half a sandwich. It had to have been before the accident.

She reached a hand out to touch the heavy silverware and noticed the women had their hands folded and their white heads bowed. Snatching her hand back, Olivia dropped her head, following suit if only to not upset the women. She wasn’t religious by any stretch of the imagination, but she could fake it if it meant getting to taste the food in front of her.

Their heads popped up in unison and Pastel started to dish out heaps of steaming vegetables onto Olivia’s plate. Across from her, Tude began sawing through the chicken with a knife as long as Olivia’s forearm.  The women served their guest before themselves and Olivia remembered her manners well enough to wait until everyone had food before she began eating. She found it an incredible struggle to eat like a human and not shovel the food in by the forkful.  Feeling eyes on her, Olivia looked up and realized, by the twin stares, that she probably wasn’t as successful at acting “normal” as she thought.

“Sorry,” she mumbled after struggling to swallow a mouthful of food without choking.

“Quite alright, dear. Please, eat as much as you’d like. As you can see, there is plenty,” Pastel said after patting Olivia’s hand. Tude glared before putting down her fork.

“Don’t you have a name?” the grumpier of the two women asked.

Olivia’s eyes grew wide as she realized she had never even introduced herself to the women who graciously invited her in for dinner.

“S-sorry!” she stuttered, unused to having these kinds of encounters anymore. “I’m Olivia.”

“Lovely to meet you, Olivia,” Pastel said with a warm smile. “You know Tude and you may call me Vera.”

“Vera? That’s a nice name,” Olivia replied with a shy smile.

“Bah. Her name is Guinevere, but since I had a nickname, she wanted one too,” Tude said, rolling her eyes.

“Gertrude and Guinevere?” The old ladies nodded and Olivia gave them a genuine smile. “Nice to meet you both. Thank you for dinner. It’s…it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”

“Ever?” questioned Tude.

Olivia flashed back to a memory of a Christmas dinner years ago, remembering the juicy turkey and homemade cranberry sauce.  It was one of the few good memories that hadn’t been wiped away.

“Well, maybe not ever, but it’s definitely made the top three.”

Both women beamed at her as if she handed them the Nobel Peace Prize.

After dinner, Olivia patted her distended stomach and hoped all the food she ate would stay down.  She shouldn’t have gorged herself, but not knowing when her next good meal would be, she couldn’t help it.

As the food settled in her stomach, a great exhaustion fell over her.  Olivia blinked rapidly, trying to keep herself from falling into a carb induced coma.  She tried to push herself up off the overstuffed couch the women had led her to and suddenly found herself with a face full of soft fuzzy fabric. Batting at it, she realized it was a velour blanket. Tude grinned at her while Vera held a pillow in her hands.  Olivia cocked her head to the side, wondering what was going through their heads.

“I don’t need this,” Olivia said, her voice quiet as she started to fold the blanket.

“It gets cool in here at night,” Tude told her while nudging her sister to hand over the pillow.

“Yes, quite drafty. We couldn’t want you catching your death,” Vera chimed in after placing the pillow at the end of the couch.

Olivia shook her head and held the blanket out to them. “I don’t need this because I’m not staying.” Her voice was no nonsense, her spine suddenly pin straight.  She was grateful for the meal, but she wouldn’t intrude any further and she certainly couldn’t stay the night.  If they knew who she really was, what she had done, they wouldn’t want her there either.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Reading

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Thanks to my awesome writing buddy Patricia Lynne, who got the idea from our other awesome writing buddy, Marie Landry, I present to you today:

7 deadly sins

 

~ GREED ~ What is your most expensive book? What is your most inexpensive book?

Hmm probably my copy of The Tale of Genji. It was purchased for my Japanese Literature class and I want to say is was $30+ bucks. It’s also super long and can be used to knock out home invaders. Most inexpensive? I received a bunch of free books when I went to BEA, do those count? Free is cheapest yet! Hah

~ WRATH ~ What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Oooh it’s probably Charlene Harris.  You had such a great thing going with the Sookie Stackhouse books and instead of ending it when you should have, you dragged it out and put out some painful stuff (in my opinion anyhow) before finally deciding it needed to come to an end. Yet….I still own them all and have read most of them repeatedly.  Stephanie Meyer gets an honorable mention here as well.

~ GLUTTONY ~ What book have you deliciously devoured over and over with no shame whatsoever?

I’m not sure with this one as I re-read a lot of stuff. I guess I’ll say the Mercedes Thompson series. I tend to re-read all the books before a new one comes out, so I’ve gone through them a couple of times.

~ SLOTH ~ What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

The Book Thief ! Must read it before the movie comes out! I have plenty of others too. Not sure why they sit, probably just because my TBR pile is so huge.

~ PRIDE ~ What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

Haha! Probably The Master and Margarita but it’s more because I really enjoy the book and love the story inside a story aspect and I want to turn others onto its greatness.

~ LUST ~ What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?

I do so enjoy a bad boy with a secret heart of gold (*cough*Judd*cough) and a kickass female who can take care of herself but isn’t so hardened that she won’t ask for help when she needs it.

~ ENVY ~ What books would you most like to receive as a gift?

Hmmm I would love early copies of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I think only two dozen original 1865 (?) first editions of Alice (just Wonderland, through the Looking Glass came later) still exist. Maybe some wealthy book lover will gift me some day! Haha!

I’d love to see your take on the Seven Deadly Sins of reading! Leave your responses in the comments or link me to your own posts!

Running Out of Topics

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I’ve been at this blog thing since the end of 2009. I’ve covered a whole hell of a lot of writing and book related topics as well as reviews, author interviews and the likes. As each Tuesday and Thursday rolls around, I panic, trying to come up with something new and fresh.  Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

So what do you do when you run out of topics to talk about?  Well you have a couple of options:

 

1) Expand on/update a previous topic

Often there is a lot that can be said on a topic and you only hit the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be afraid to go back and revisit an old post.  Chances are, you have new readers who never read the old one and old readers who would be interested in learning more. Link the previous post and go from there

2) Google is your friend

I’ve gotten to the point where I head over to good ole Google and search out blog topics. Sometimes you can find a winner. Other times you shake your head and click away from way you’ve found.  Travel links at your own risk…

3) Collaborate with other blogs

I don’t do things like blog hops often, but I should do them more. If you can’t find ones you want to join, ask a fellow blogger if they’d be interested in working on something together. It could be a joint post, it could be just promoting each other, it could be debating about a topic you’re both interested in.

4) Ask your readers

You might be surprised to find there are topics your following would really like you to cover. It doesn’t hurt to ask! (Hint, hint, I’m asking, folks! :D)

5) Take a break

This one is a last resort in my opinion.  Taking a break means you’ll lose some, if not all, of your followers. When you start back up, you’ll have to really reach out to folks to get them to come back, but taking a break can be like recharging your brain.  It could work.

6) End the blog

I kind of hate to suggest this one, but there comes a time when you’ve exhausted things and you’re just being repetitive and can no longer offer the kind of advice you’d like.  It’s sad, but all good things typically come to an end.  I would recommend keeping a news related blog to point your readers to so they can check periodically to see when you have new releases coming out. Don’t cut off all communication with your readers otherwise building your platform will have been for naught.

“I could drive a truck through that!” – Plot Hole Woes

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One of the problems I see with many Indie authors, especially pantsers and those who forgo quality editing, is the glaring, egregious plot hole. If a book takes too long to write and the author isn’t re-reading along the way, things often get forgotten, and that leads to story lines that don’t get wrapped up, questions left unanswered and issues such as characters popping up in your scenes when they were supposed to be across town.

I know not everyone can be a plotter, but it could work to your advantage to make chapter summaries, whether it’s on note cards or in a separate file. Timelines can also help keep plot holes at bay as well as those early beta readers who are reading along as you churn out chapters.

It’s an easy problem to fix, but carelessness and lack of editing can allow stories to get to the public without stitching up the hole. I promise you, it will lead to readers giving poor reviews and being annoyed you left pieces dangling rather than tying everything up all neat.

In a series, there are things that can be left unanswered, but you best make sure you note what they are so you can wrap them up in subsequent books and know that if you leave too much unanswered at the end of book 1, you’ll still most likely get cranky readers.

Tell a complete story. Don’t let readers come back and tell you they could drive a Mack truck through your plot holes.

How do you ensure all your ends are tied up before publishing?

 

Also, I’m running a giveaway on my FB page! Just stop by and comment on the linked post and you could win a copy of one of my books! GIVEAWAY!